When Deanna Suleiman, copy editor of Edsel Ford High’s school newspaper, The Bolt, used her free speech right to express dissatisfaction with American and Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, she had no idea what trouble she was about to cause.
Deanna and her colleagues at The Bolt had excitedly prepared and posted the long-running paper’s first-ever web edition, only to suddenly have the entire website shut down by school administration, because of Deanna’s article.
What prompted such drastic action? It depends on who you ask.
The school principal, Hassane Jaafar, said the article was removed because “It appeared as if it’s carrying the view of Edsel Ford High.”
That’s nonsense. Since when did a school newspaper ever represent the official view of the school itself? Indeed, that’s one of the reasons for having a school newspaper, to allow students to express their own views, which may run counter to the school’s.
None of the newspaper’s other student workers found Deanna’s article offensive or inappropriate, not the editor-in-chief, not the faculty advisor.
But that obviously did not matter to the administration, because they didn’t even consult with the editor or the faculty advisor, someone in central administration simply making the unilateral decision to shut down the entire website.
Superintendent Brian Whiston denies that this action constituted censorship. In an email dated March 5, Whiston, trying to explain the unexplainable, said: “The district was concerned not with the content of the editorial but with the variety of methods that readers could access the editorial on the website. The different access points did not clearly define the piece as an editorial. Also, it was not clear that the opinions expressed in the editorial were those of the writer and not those of the school or school district. District administration made the decision to take down the entire website until corrections could be made in the lay-out and design of the site. At no time did the district censor the editorial. In fact, the print edition of the paper remained posted in the school and was handed out as usual.”
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. For the administration to have acted so swiftly, so dramatically and so unilaterally, it appears that a threat of some kind was motivating the behavior.
Otherwise, why not just simply correct the situation and “move on,” as Principal Jaafar has been so fond of saying during all these shenanigans. In the final analysis, much less attention would have been paid to the entire matter had a simple correction been made. But to shut down the entire website? That created a furor. If we assume those who are running things in Dearborn Public Schools know what they are doing, we believe the action must have been taken under duress.
For their part, Deanna’s classmates saw the central issue not as a political one, but rather an issue of free speech. We agree. Clearly Deanna’s free speech rights have been violated. And how ironic that the principal said one of the reasons for the action was that it was his responsibility to create a positive atmosphere for students to work in.
Deanna Suleiman and her co-workers at The Bolt deserve an apology from Dearborn Public Schools and the tax-paying community deserves to hear such censorship will not occur again.
Put Deanna’s opinion back on the website, clearly marked as an editorial, and let’s “move on.”
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